ON JULY 8, 2013: THE CURRENT HUNGER STRIKE
30,000 prisoners across the state refused meals. After the second week over 12,000 prisoners were still striking. The prisoners felt they had no choice. After the July and September 2011 strikes CDCR failed to implement their promises.
Since the strike began massive support for the prison has come forward. Amnesty International issued a report condemning California’s widespread use of solitary confinement. Scientific American August editorial declared that solitary confinement is torture. The New York Times had a major article, an Op Ed and editorial all sympathetic to the Hunger Strikers. The Los Angeles Times had an excellent editorial against long-term solitary confinement. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has been trying get an on site visit. The Restorative Justice Committee of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement. An Open letter to Governor Jerry Brown signed by close to 80 influential leaders and celebrities spoke out strongly against California’s egregious practices.
MARCH 2012: CDCR UNVEILS “NEW” POLICIES
In March 2012, CDCR released a new version of their regulations that purportedly complied with the prisoners’ demands and represented a “dramatic” change from the contested former policies. In reality, these regulations are largely the same, do not address the demands of the prisoners or the concerns of the legislature, and in fact expand their abused discretionary authority.
SEPTEMBER 2011: CDCR’S LIES; THE SECOND HUNGER STRIKE
Despite the legislature’s concern, CDCR failed to implement any changes. Prisoners were forced to resume the hunger strike on September 26th, 2011. After nearly three weeks of further starvation, mediators announced that the strike would end. CDCR had issued a memo indicating their intentions to review every SHU prisoner in California who was sentenced related to gang validation, and change the gang validation process. The prisoners ended their strike based on CDCR’s seemingly good-faith promises to change their policies.
AUGUST 2011: THE LEGISLATURE INTERVENES
On August 23rd, 2011, Chairperson of the State Assembly Public Safety Committee Tom Ammiano held a hearing on the conditions of the SHU and its procedures for determining which prisoners are confined to the SHU. After hearing testimony from family members of SHU inmates, experts on the psychological impact of solitary confinement, former SHU inmates, and attorneys representing prisoners’ rights, the legislators questioned the CDCR Undersecretary of Operations. California State Assemblymember Holly Mitchell encapsulated the testimony in her comments: “I fear that you are pleased with the status quo, and have no intention to make any change.” At the close of the hearing, Chairperson Ammiano implored CDCR to make meaningful changes to their validation policy and offered his collaboration and support in the process.
JULY 2011: THE END OF THE STRIKE; CDCR’S PROMISES
After four weeks of starvation, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation entered negotiations with the hunger strike representatives. The hunger strike ended on July 20th on the condition that CDCR would implement substantial changes to their policies and comply with the prisoners’ demands within a matter of weeks.
JULY 2011: THE FIRST HUNGER STRIKE
On July 1st, 2011, Pelican Bay SHU prisoners began a rolling hunger strike to protest the cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions of their imprisonment and to improve the treatment of SHU-status prisoners throughout California. Their action was supported by over 6,600 prisoners statewide.